Gay Rights & Religious Liberty
Can we bring the presence of Jesus Christ back into the debate?

*NOTE: This message was delivered at the Q Cities conference in Denver on September 27, 2012. My actual comments may have been slightly different from what is written here. Q restricts presentations to a maximum of 18 minutes, so this message could only skim the surface of the complicated intersection of gay rights and religious liberty.

When I was a freshman in college, the GLBA–the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Alliance–organized an annual Gay Awareness week. What I remember most was "Jean Day." The student leaders of the GLBA posted signs all over campus announcing that students could express their support for gay rights by wearing jeans on Thursday. Of course denim is a second skin for most college students, and it was obvious the GLBA was seeking to inflate their perception of support. The tactic was so transparent few people paid attention—until a conservative Christian student group began putting up their own signs. Their flyers called students who did not support gay rights to "wear a shirt on Thursday."

The battle lines were drawn. The silliness of the GBLA's scheme was matched by the stupidity of the Christians'.

Thursday came and members of the GBLA went to class in blue jeans and topless. (Some women wearing only bras.) The conservative Christians marched to class wearing khakis and in some cases multiple shirts, proudly doing their part to "uphold righteousness." Eventually the two groups got into a heated shouting match. The shirts accused the skins of being godless and immoral. The denims accused the khakis of being bigots and homophobes.

As I watched the scene unfold, the voice of my high school teacher echoed in my head. "Just remember," he'd told me, "college isn't the real world."

Sadly the real world has proven to look more like my college experience than I would have hoped, only now the shouting between the gay community and Christians happens on cable news, talk radio, outside courthouses and in school board meetings. Still there are many of us–both gay and straight, Christian and non-Christian, supporters of same sex marriage, and those like myself who hold to the church's traditional definition–who do not identify with the culture war rhetoric emanating from either side. We stand on the periphery wondering: isn't there a better way?

Must we view every advancement in gay rights as a defeat for people of religious conviction? And is the presence of Christian values in the public square automatically a threat to gay rights? What is the place of religious liberty? And how do we elevate the conversation from the shouting match it has become?

None
October 08, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 53 comments

Emmanuel

November 07, 2012  4:40pm

Homosexuals want others in society to think like them (and behave like them?). They are working hard to change moral, social, and political opinion to be more in line with what they want. They are not content to be what they want to be. They want others to accept them. They want others opinions to change and conform to their ideology and behavior. What gives them the right to try and change society into what they want it to be?

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John

October 27, 2012  10:33am

Reading these various comments, one can see the real issue - We as Christians are supposed to make up Christ's church, and we can't even agree on what that looks like. Not to pick on anyone, but even some of you who quote God's Word have it misunderstood - I'm no scholar, but I am a student of God's Word, and I interpret it through exegetical thought - someone wrote they stay out of the debate because of Paul's advice to the Thessalonians "make it your ambition to lead a quite life, to mind your own business…" Paul is telling them to lead a quite life before God – to "listen" to "be still and know that I am God". Paul meant we can't truly know God until we quite ourselves, and listen for His reply or directive. When Paul tells them to "mind their own business", he does not mean that every individual is to mind his own business in such a way that all are to live apart from one another and have no concern for others, but simply wants to correct the idle triviality which makes men open disturbers of the peace. Continue reading Thessalonians – all of it – put the verse you isolated into the context of the whole book – 9 verses later, Paul tells them "While the people are saying Peace and safety, destruction will come upon them suddenly". The unexpected nature of that day will be a tragedy for the unbeliever. They will be lulled to sleep by political and economic conditions, but they will be rudely awakened. They will hear the frightening verdict "they shall not escape." Which leads me to my second point: the author of this piece seems to want to persuade us Christians to approach people who live in sin, not just sin, but continuously LIVING in sin by actively sinning, with a "passive and understanding" approach. The understanding part I agree with – Jeremiah in his prayer (Jeremiah 1) confesses the sins of all his people as if they were his own, because Jeremiah understands, but for the grace of God, he could be committing the same sins, and more importantly, he has the propensity of committing those sins himself, just as easily as those who are committing them. And we all have sin in our lives, and God doesn't distinguish between sins, He hates them all. The difference is, should be, that we are trying to not sin by embracing the cross, and relying on God's strength, not our own, to accomplish this. As believers, we have God, and we have salvation – not through our own actions, but through Christ's. Those knowingly living in continuous sin, need God's salvation too. It is our calling, our duty to tell them, and witness to those who are lost…THAT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY. This is where I part with the author – I don't care if I hurt anyone's feelings, if my heart's true intent is focused on their salvation. When Christ came to us the first time, it was to save us – the second time; He is coming to judge us. He will not be passive. He will be brining wrath with Him, and personally, I don't want to have to say "well Lord, yes I heard your commission to "go into the world and preach the gospel to ever creature", but I didn't want to offend anyone". We shouldn't have to apologize for our faith, and YES we should want everyone to believe the way we do, because we know our way is the way to everlasting life, and the only true way. I myself had a long battle with alcohol, and I was knowingly living a life of sin, but society justified it for me – but once I really embraced the truth of the Gospel, I got down on my knees and asked God to remove the temptation from me, and He did. Alcohol is a powerful addiction, and abuse of it is a sin – so I imagine is an attraction to the same sex, or drugs, or idolatry, etc. (a powerful addiction – I know they are all sins) – but if God can remove my desire for alcohol, I know He can remove another person's desire for (fill in the blank with a sin). Now, with the knowledge in mind that that "filled in the blank" sin could keep a child of God (because we all are children of God, created in H

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Michael

October 22, 2012  1:20pm

Sheerahkahn, no apologies needed! The internet is notorious for being a difficult place in which to communicate, so it's good to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure you meant no harm, and nor did I!

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sheerahkahn

October 22, 2012  1:20am

"So, rest assured, I'm not wrong! Just misunderstood. :) Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my point." Micheal, I hope you didn't think I was coming down on you and Tim hard...I was just being blunt, nothing ill intended on my part, and no double ententes either. But if I did come off a little harsh I do apologize.

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bil_

October 21, 2012  9:48pm

KWC- I find your comments helpful in that it clarified one particular problem I had with the article: using the term "identity" to describe a behavioral choice. We do see this in other areas of sin (particularly drunkenness and gluttony) these days...the idea that we can't help it, we're just made this way. I think this idea is a fundamental restructuring of how God has revealed that our lives actually work. My only allowance for Skye here is that he was using this language because that's how those stuck in their sin see themselves, but even in that case the language is problematic. All- Let me share something of my personal experience here: before I was a believer in Jesus Christ (that is, before God radically restructured/replaced my heart and mind through new birth), I saw Christians as judgmental, hateful bigots. Why? Because I wanted them to approve of my sin-filled lifestyle. That said, their positions did not win me to Christ, Jesus did. Hearing and experiencing His story. Wrestling with God. After this transformation it was like I could hear Christians for the first time. Not only that, but as I read scripture I realized they were not inventing hateful words for me, they were only letting me know what God had revealed about true life through the Bible. I was thankful for their faithful witness. All that being said, two scriptures nag at me on this issue: 1) "Instead, speaking the truth in love..." (Ephesians 4:15) This came to mind when Skye said "...causing Christians to act contrary to a true and biblical one–the call to love our neighbors." While I agree with Skye on America being "chosen" I have a hard time understanding how not telling someone the truth of their condition is an act of love. 2) "... but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:32) Without this verse I might be very inclined to 'live and let live', seeking to find a peaceful solution, but does this not give us pause that we ought not to be seen as "approving" of things that God claims are detestable? BTW, I agree that this goes for the whole list of sins, not just homosexuality. And I agree that all sinners (myself included) want nothing more than for their sin to be moved to the "approved" list. I thank God that is has not!

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KWC

October 20, 2012  12:34pm

Introducing the concept of "identity" changes the discussion in a strange way. Never, or at least very rarely, has an action (doing) usurped or been elevated to the role of identity (being). What is especially disturbing is that this particular "doing" has been, over millennia, universally accepted as a deviant (not normal) behavior in nearly all cultures is now being fiercely demanded to be accepted as identity. A much larger percentage of the population has a strong leaning toward adultery (another doing), yet there is no movement to establish the concept of "adultery" as an identity issue that should become universally accepted and practiced. (Please replace the word "adultery" with any of your favorite, or not so favorite deviant behavior: drunkenness, lying, theft, laziness, gluttony, greed, etc. No one would ever want to elevated such things to core identity concepts.) As often experienced, the most humble person presenting a deeply held belief that is directly contrary the belief of another will be attacked as a hateful bigot. Unfortunately there are truly immature people who cannot present their beliefs without sounding, or actually being, hateful bigots. The judgment of bigotry, however, is not the basis by which one discovers or judges the truth. A person can be a bigot, but not the Truth.

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KWC

October 20, 2012  12:32pm

Introducing the concept of "identity" changes the discussion in a strange way. Never, or at least very rarely, has an action (doing) usurped or been elevated to the role of identity (being). What is especially disturbing is that this particular "doing" has been, over millennia, universally accepted as a deviant (not normal) behavior in nearly all cultures is now being fiercely demanded to be accepted as identity. A much larger percentage of the population has a strong leaning toward adultery (another doing), yet there is no movement to establish the concept of "adultery" as an identity issue that should become universally accepted and practiced. Please replace the word "adultery" with any of your favorite, or not so favorite deviant behavior: drunkenness, lying, theft, laziness, gluttony, greed, etc. No one would ever want to elevated such things to core identity concepts. As often experienced, the most humble person presenting a deeply held belief that is directly contrary the belief of another will be attacked as a hateful bigot. Unfortunately there are truly immature people who cannot present their beliefs without sounding, or actually being, hateful bigots. The judgment of bigotry, however, is not the basis by which one discovers or judges the truth. A person can be a bigot, but not the Truth.

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Michael

October 19, 2012  1:01pm

Sheerahkahn, the example I was thinking of when I wrote the statement you quoted was where it says that Jesus left a village without doing many miracles except for a few healings, because most of the people lacked faith. I was just trying to establish a point of agreement with Tim before presenting a counter-argument. But, of course, I agree with what you wrote in your response. The very fact that Jesus came to dwell among sinful and rebellious humanity is proof that, in that sense which you describe, Jesus did in fact spend time with people who despised him. My wording could've been different, and your point is well taken. So, rest assured, I'm not wrong! Just misunderstood. :) Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my point.

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sheerahkahn

October 19, 2012  11:12am

"From the comments here, it is obvious that bigotry and hatred are two characteristics that are very difficult to extricate from the minds of Christians." WEW, I took the liberty to correct one mistake in your post. "From the comments here, it is obvious that bigotry and hatred are two characteristics that are very difficult to extricate from the minds of people." Christians are still people, just as the people engaged in homosexuality are still people, and your statement, while true, pins the onus of two judgements on one subset when in fact all people exhibit those two traits, bigotry and hatred. To emphasize my point... I have met people who are not Christian and have shown more charity and love than Christians; and I have met a lot of people who are not engaged in homosexual behaviors who are more open and flamboyant than the most flaming of gay men. In short, you're just as guilty as the rest of us in wanting to label particular subgroup with a set of behaviors you find offensive. Pigeon holing people is what we do best as people, and in this culture of "you must belong to a generalized identifiable group so you can be labeled" is one of the things that just isn't right. period. If there is one thing I think Christians need to change is stop pigeon holing people, and accept them for who they are and let G-d change them into HIS new creation...not into OUR creation. One of me is enough in this world.

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W.E.W

October 18, 2012  7:36am

From the comments here, it is obvious that bigotry and hatred are two characteristics that are very difficult to extricate from the minds of Christians. Will we ever grow in the wisdom of God and exhibit the "fruits" of the Spirit? We have a long way to go. Why are we so afraid to let God's Spirit change us?

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